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Grants awarded for research on opioid use disorder in people with disabilities

September 21, 2018

The opioid crisis cuts across demographics, affecting people of all ages, races, income classes and genders, in all geographic areas, and both with and without disabilities.

The extent to which the opioid crisis has affected people with disabilities is not well known, but evidence suggests that people with disabilities are both more likely to develop an opioid use disorder and face greater barriers to treatment for the disorder. Consequently, there is an urgent need to understand the individual and environmental factors surrounding people with disabilities who misuse opioids and develop an opioid use disorder.

This week, ACL’s National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) awarded grants to the following two research institutions to begin to address this need. Each will receive $500,000 per year for three years.

Project:  Improving Assessment of Opioid Use Disorder in People with Disabilities Related to Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain

Grantee: American Institutes for Research (AIR)

Project Director: Kathryn Paez, PhD

About this project:  The goal of this 3-year project is to lay the groundwork for primary care providers and specialists to accurately assess for opioid use disorder (OUD) in people with disabilities who are taking opioids long term to manage musculoskeletal pain (target group) while using the best evidence to minimize OUD over- and under-diagnosis. AIR will partner with an advisory panel of people with disabilities and experts in the disability and medical communities for guidance and feedback on research plans and products. The objectives are to (1) conduct a systematic literature review to identify evidence-based best OUD assessment practices, tools, and resources; (2) identify barriers and facilitators to OUD assessment and treatment access through qualitative research; (3) adapt and test a screening tool to detect OUD in the target population; and (4) develop an OUD assessment and referral toolkit and disseminate it through provider and disability organizations and those training providers in addiction medicine. Anticipated intermediate outcomes include increased understanding of opioid misuse versus appropriate use in the target population, increased provider knowledge of steps to accurately assess for OUD, strategies for OUD risk stratification, and ways to facilitate transition into OUD treatment. The expected products are issue briefs synthesizing the systematic review and qualitative research tailored to different audiences; a validated screening tool to assess for OUD in the target population; and an assessment and referral toolkit to be disseminated through online media, a webinar and webinar recording, a conference, and AIR’s Opioid Center webpages.

Project: INROADS: Intersecting Research on Opioid Misuse, Addiction, and Disability Services

Grantee: Brandeis University

Project Director: Sharon Reif, PhD

About this project: The goal of the INROADS (INtersecting Research on Opioid Misuse, Addiction, and Disability Services) Project is to contribute to evidence-based policy and practice on behalf of people living with disabilities and opioid use disorder (OUD). We partner with people with disabilities, advocacy and policy organizations, practitioners, and policy makers on our Advisory Board, and with state agencies in Massachusetts and Washington. The objectives are to: (1) conduct a systematic literature review on OUD and disability, (2) undertake comprehensive, targeted research activities with significant key informant input, and (3) engage the community of people with disabilities in shaping the research and informing INROADS products for widespread dissemination to diverse audiences. Our approach, over 3 years, includes mixed methods research activities with analyses of quantitative data from multiple available national and state-level datasets, integrated with qualitative data from focus groups and key informant interviews. All activities will incorporate guidance and input from our Advisory Board and state partners. Our ultimate outcome is to improve access to care and facilitate lives in OUD recovery. Our measurable outcome is knowledge transfer and dissemination of our research findings, to people with disabilities, advocates, practitioners, policy makers, and others. Accessible, useful products such as issue briefs and tip sheets will be developed for dissemination online, via social media, and in scientific journals. By bringing together an experienced team of researchers with expertise in OUD and disability issues, leveraging our extensive partnerships, and active engagement with the disability community, the INROADS Project will generate, integrate and disseminate rigorous research findings to enhance policy and practice on behalf of these intersecting populations.

About ACL

ACL was created around the fundamental principle that all people, regardless of age or disability, should be able to live independently and fully participate in their communities. By advocating across the federal government for older adults, people with disabilities, and families and caregivers; funding services and supports provided by primarily by networks of community-based organizations; and investing in training, education, research and innovation, ACL helps makes this principle a reality for millions of Americans.


NIDILRR’s mission is to generate new knowledge and to promote its effective use to improve the abilities of individuals with disabilities to perform activities of their choice in the community, and to expand society’s capacity to provide full opportunities and accommodations for its citizens with disabilities.

Last modified on 05/13/2020

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